WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration took another swing at China on Wednesday when it said it would impose fresh quotas on $690.4 million worth of Chinese goods.
The action came five days after the federal Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements said it would impose safeguard quotas on $624.5 million worth of imports in three other apparel categories and a day after the Commerce Department warned China to reform its currency policy.
CITA said Wednesday it will implement safeguard quotas on four categories of imports from China that have seen surges: man-made fiber trousers, man-made fiber knit shirts and blouses, combed-cotton yarn and men’s and boys’ cotton and man-made fiber shirts. Each of the quota calls require consultations with China, after which the level and timing of the quotas could be adjusted.
The safeguard quotas, intended to protect the domestic industry from a flood of imports, will restrict annual growth in the categories to 7.5 percent, based on the 12 months ended Feb. 28.
The European Union has also taken steps toward implementing new restrictions on Chinese imports, as have Turkey and Brazil.
A call to the Chinese embassy on Wednesday was not returned, but a posting on the government news agency Web site denounced recent moves toward new quotas. Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai argued that if the EU and U.S. had phased quotas out more gradually, there would not have been such a surge.
The safeguard action, allowed under China’s 2001 entry agreement to the World Trade Organization, is a boost for the domestic industry, which in October filed petitions for the four categories of goods based on the threat of market disruption.
“This clearly validates our threat-based activities toward the end of last year. That’s important because as we go to renew these cases further down the road, using threat becomes very valuable,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, one of the groups that filed the petitions.
There are other overlapping petitions still winding their way through the public comment period, including other threat-based petitions and some based on actual market disruption.
“We feel confident that there will be further approvals and, of course, there will be further files as we get to the point of identifying additional cases,” Tantillo said.
“The administration is rushing to do this,” said Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at USA-ITA. “They don’t seem to be interested in looking at the impact on U.S. importers and retailers who represent an important segment of the economy.”
Since the nations of the WTO dropped the system of quotas that regulated global trade on Jan. 1, Chinese imports have grown dramatically and disrupted the domestic market, according to the government and the U.S. textile producers. Chinese imports in the shirt and blouse category shot up 328.1 percent to 2.8 million dozen for the first quarter, while trousers increased 278.3 percent to 2.3 million dozen. Combed cotton yarn imports for the first three months of the year gained 119.6 percent to 600,000 kilograms.